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Video:How to Use a Knife Steel

with Chef John Mitzewich

The knife steel is a very important, and often misused, kitchen tool that will help you keep a sharp edge on your knives for a long time. It's easy to learn and only takes seconds to do.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Use a Knife Steel

Hi, I'm Chef John Mitzewich for About.com. Today I'm going to show you how to use a knife steel, a very important kitchen tool and one you may not be using correctly.

Knives Dull Over Time

All right, so there's your knife steel. It probably came with that butcher block set of knives you bought and you haven't touched it since. Let me explain what it does using cardboard. I couldn't afford an electron microscope.

That straight edge is the blade of a sharp knife. As you use a knife, that edge, that really thin straight edge gets bent over and dinged, and kind of mangled on a microscopic level. And your knife starts to get dull.

How a Knife Steel Helps

What the knife steel does, if you use it before and after each use, is it will keep that edge straight. Now, not perfectly straight, but it will make it much sharper than if you didn't use a steel.

What it doesn't do is sharpen a knife. See that rounded edge? That edge is gone and the steel won't do anything for that.

That has to be taken to a knife sharpener or put on a stone so that straight edge can get put back on.

So the steel does not sharpen a dull knife. It keeps a knife sharp that's already sharp. And those little fine grooves of metal are what does it. It's harder than the knife, and it basically just straightens it out.

How Chefs Use a Knife Steel

Now here is how a chef does it, fast, violently, recklessly, dangerously, sometimes going towards themselves. You may have seen that on TV or in a restaurant. But we're going to start out slow.

Hold the Knife at an Angle

What we are looking for is a 23 degree angle. So put you knife steel straight up on the board with the tip down. Hold it firmly.

We're going to put the knife at 90 degrees, then tilt it to 45 degrees, half of that will be about 23 degrees. We're going to drag it across the steel at that 23 degree angle.

We're going to make sure we get the whole length of the blade, so start at the heel and go all the way to the tip.

Run the Knife Along the Knife Steel

OK, so let's try that again. Ninety, 45, 23 -- double-check that angle each time. That's the most important part. Four to 5 strokes per side should be perfect to keep the edge.

Once you get comfortable and used to it, then you can just pick it up and do it like a chef after you get some practice. You'll keep a very, very nice sharp edge for a long time.

Clean the Knife

When you do use the steel make sure you give it a quick wipe with a paper towel because it will have some very fine metal shavings on it. And that's it.

So easy to use, it only takes a few seconds, and your edge will last a lot longer. Anyway, give that a try, practice it, and you will be glad you did.

Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at food.about.com.
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